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Sister Susanne Bauer, OSU: October 24, 1933-June 5, 2024

Sister Susanne Bauer, 90, an Ursuline Sister of Mount Saint Joseph, died June 5, 2024, at Mount Saint Joseph, in her 73rd  year of religious life.

A native of Louisburg, Kan., she was born Anna Mae to George Gustiv Bauer of Louisburg and Marie Auberger, who was from Linz, Austria. Sister Susanne earned a bachelor of science degree from St. Mary’s College in Notre Dame, Ind., in 1968, and a master’s degree from Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, Okla., in 1981.

She was an Ursuline Sister of Paola, Kan., prior to that community’s 2008 merger with the Ursulines of Mount Saint Joseph. She grew up on a farm and loved to spend time in nature and the garden. She was an educator for 42 years in Kansas and Oklahoma, and was assistant superior and treasurer of her community from 1990-98. She taught in Kansas at Queen of the Holy Rosary School, Overland Park (1959-64 and 1967-70); Saint Philip Neri School, Osawatomie (1964-67), and Holy Angels School, Garnett (1989-90). She was principal of Sacred Heart School, Ottawa (1998-2001) and was a teacher’s aide at Holy Rosary-Wea School, Bucyrus (2001-2009), where she also helped with the after-school care program. She taught at Saint John School, Bartlesville, Okla., (1970-89) and served as its principal from 1976-89. She served as the chapel sacristan at the Motherhouse in Maple Mount from 2009-18.

Survivors include the members of her religious community and nieces and nephews. She was preceded in death by her parents, George and Marie Bauer; and her siblings George Bauer, Tom Bauer, John Bauer and Elizabeth Hofacker.

The funeral Mass will be at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday, at Mount Saint Joseph, with visitation beginning at 4 p.m. Monday, and a wake service following at 6:30 p.m.

Glenn Funeral Home and Crematory, Owensboro, is in charge of arrangements.

Donations in memory of Sister Susanne may be made to the Ursuline Sisters of Mount Saint Joseph, 8001 Cummings Road, Maple Mount, KY 42356.

Wake Reflection

By Sister Sharon Sullivan, congregational leader

June 10, 2024

Sister Susanne Bauer once wrote, “When I first began thinking about the future, I opened the Bible and read, ‘Do not let your heart be troubled. . . I go to prepare a place for you (John 14:1-2).’” She continued, “So my prayer was, ‘Lord help me to know what it is You are calling me to do.’”

And throughout her life, it seemed as though Sister Susanne was destined to be reluctantly faithful yet joyous in her following; for so often she recalled saying, “Oh, I’ll never do. . .” only to begin whatever it was and to discover a deep joy in the doing. So, early in the morning, on Wednesday, June 5th, when her Lord called her home, Sister Susanne may have finally said, “Well, sure! I’ll give it a try; I’ll be right there!”

Sister Susanne was born Anna Mae Bauer, midmorning on Tuesday, October 24, 1933, the youngest child in the family of George Gustiv and Marie Auberger Bauer. Preceding Anna Mae were George, Elizabeth, John, and Tom; little Anna Mae completed the set of five as the hopefully anticipated second daughter. Just a week later, on Wednesday, November 1st, Anna Mae was baptized at Immaculate Conception Church in Louisburg, Kansas. Nine years later she would be confirmed in the same parish church.

Anna Mae’s childhood in rural Kansas was a unique combination of the idyllic and the rather unusual. As the youngest, Anna Mae soon was quite spoiled by her brothers and sister. She recalled, “As a tiny tot I remember waking early in the dark. . . (and knowing that) just crying would bring George (running) to rescue me.” She cherished the special times she had alone with her mother, reflecting that “Mom was the quiet type but a deep thinker. . . when [the others] were away at school she would spend time holding me and reading stories. . . [just] for me.”

By the time Anna Mae was three, the family realized that she needed jobs, too; it was sharing the wood gathering chores with her brother Tom that resulted in the accident that was almost a life-changing tragedy. Little Anna Mae was helping Tom by holding the screen door open while he carried the wood, when suddenly the spring broke and flew into her eye, slicing the eyeball. The family did not realize the degree of damage that had been done and patched the eye, then gathered around little Anna Mae to pray the rosary to help her fall asleep.

Sister Susanne later recalled, “I was so intrigued with the idea of having the rosary said just for me, I soon forgot my eye and fell asleep.” The next day the doctors told the family the damage was too severe and that Anna Mae must lose the eye; she would say later, “I was so young, it was never any problem. But, of course, my brothers and sister rallied to the cause and cared all the more for me.”

Growing up on the farm, Anna Mae began to shadow her brothers; Sister Susanne reported that she “especially liked to be with John, so I became an outdoors person. . . I did like to sew and that kept me interested in dolls. . . but my main interest was farm work.” She learned to use the machinery, drive the tractor, and manage the chores with the livestock and maintenance work with the vehicles. Later she would say, “I’m probably the only girl who went to the convent knowing how to clean spark plugs, grind valves, put in rings, and change oil.

At the same time, her mother still held out some hope that Anna Mae might share her appreciation for fashionable clothes. Sister Susanne conceded that her “Mom was a real lady. She liked nice clothes. . . [but] two things I really hated were pink silk underwear and sandals (the same is true yet). The plainer my clothes were, the better I liked it. . .”

When she was six, Anna Mae began her school years at Pony Creek School, a one-room, eight-grade, public school in rural Kansas. Throughout her eight years of elementary school, Anna Mae would be the only student in her grade. She had two outstanding teachers her first three years, but then came the Second World War and teachers were hard to come by. The teacher assigned to Pony Creek School those three years was, in Sister Susanne’s words, “a bit unusual. She bought answer books for the text books so we could check our own work, and then would lie on the floor and go to sleep while we did our work. We had rather long recess periods, too,” wandering on our own to the neighboring creek, pond, and cornfields. The teacher during Anna Mae’s seventh and eighth years was much better but discovered she had to reteach what they should have learned before. Still Anna Mae passed the County exam at the end of her eighth grade, scoring “rather well,” and was awarded her grade school diploma.

Now, for perhaps the first time, Anna Mae experienced a call to go somewhere else not necessarily of her own choosing. She wrote, “Mom decided to send me to high school at Ursuline. I did not want to leave home. I did not know anybody there, in fact I really did not want to go to high school at all.” Reluctant as she was, Anna Mae went to Paola with the promise from her family that she could come home each weekend. She would later admit, “. . . [just] one day at Ursuline and I (already) loved it dearly.”

Becoming a part of a regular high school class with other classmates was a hard transition for Anna Mae, and for a while she admits she was a bit of a behavior problem. She reported, “Somewhere along the line, the nuns found out I was a good worker and that if they kept me busy, I stayed out of trouble.” So Anna Mae began helping the Sisters with their duties and would later say, “I felt especially privileged as different Sisters quite often asked me to help. . . [with] lots of ordinary jobs that most people wouldn’t relish, but I treasured them as they were all opportunities for me to be close to the Sisters.”

By her junior and senior years at Ursuline, Anna Mae was no longer home sick but even begged her family to let her stay at Paola over Christmas and Easter breaks. She wrote, “Time was running out. I knew I would be faced with leaving [Ursuline]. . . [I kept] waiting and hoping some nun would say, ‘You really ought to be a Sister.’ But no one ever did. . . So I made my own appointment with Mother Cecilia.”

Mother Cecilia advised Anna Mae to wait a few years before making such a decision, to finish high school and perhaps start college. Sister Susanne said of her high school self, “I thanked her and left, knowing that I would be back, that God had other plans.”

Soon it turned out that another student also wanted to enter but would not do it alone. So Mother Cecilia contacted Anna Mae to see if she still wanted to enter – in just two weeks. Anna Mae said, “yes,” and Sister Susanne said, “I never hesitated a second.”

The pair were to enter the postulancy on Sunday, February 11, 1951 – but they were not quite sure at exactly what time. That did not stop them from joining a small group of classmates to go downtown to celebrate the special occasion with a banana split. Of course, they lost track of time and the convent had to send someone to find their truant new postulants.

The next months passed in a blur as they were completing high school, taking final exams, graduating in May of 1951, and spending the summer sewing habits, cleaning everything, and studying religious life. Then on Tuesday, August 21st, Anna Mae became Sister Mary Susanna, an Ursuline Sister of Paola.

Sister Susanne’s novitiate years passed, and she was ready for temporary vows in August of 1953. She reported, “When I joined the Ursuline Sisters, I told them if they made me teach, I would leave,” so her first ministries were there at the Motherhouse where she served as Sacristan for the next six years. She enjoyed that work and the many odd jobs she undertook, such as managing the laundry. But eventually, Sister Susanne began working in the kitchen, an assignment she did not enjoy but one which helped her “decide that I wanted to do more than chop lettuce and peel potatoes.”

She had heard that the novices were going to take a class in chemistry; hoping to have an excuse to be out of the kitchen, Sister Susanne asked Mother Charles if she could also take the chemistry class. She noted, “Mother Charles said yes, but that I had to take the Methods of Teaching class, too. I was afraid to say no for fear she would not let me take the chemistry. So I said yes.”

In the Methods class, Sister Susanne went to observe in a first-grade class, and when the teacher became ill, Mother Charles asked Sister Susanne to fill in. She later said, “What I thought was going to be three days turned into two months. . . I decided I could handle this. . . What I did was teach first, then learned how to teach.”

For most of the next fifty years, Sister Susanne taught.  She taught first grade at Queen of the Holy Rosary for five years and for three years taught first through fourth grades at Saint Philip Neri in Osawatomie while spending summers completing her baccalaureate degree at Saint Mary’s College in Leavenworth. She returned to first grade at Queen of the Holy Rosary for another three years, doing what she so enjoyed.

In 1970, Sister Susanne had another call; she was asked to leave her beloved Kansas and go to teach at Saint John School in Bartlesville, Oklahoma. She would say, “The last place I wanted to go was Bartlesville, Oklahoma. . . It was so far away from all the other places I’d taught. . . [but they kept asking and urging me to go] so I said, ‘Well, I’ll go for a year.’ And then I stayed for 18 more.”

Through her nineteen-year ministry at Saint John in Oklahoma, Sister Susanne enriched countless lives. She taught all eight grades, served as principal for thirteen years, and helped the school become regarded as one of the best schools in Oklahoma. But her reach was far beyond Oklahoma; Saint John alumni claim of Sister Susanne’s tenure that “sometimes people mentioned they met a former student in Egypt or some other place on the other side of the world.”

Sister Susanne’s ministry encompassed more than academics. She introduced a peace-awareness program, “Let Peace Begin with Me,” for her middle grade students, saying to them, “I believe that as a family of God we are especially called to be peacemakers.” She was honored by the Girl Scouts and by the Boy Scouts with the Bronze Pelican Award for “outstanding service to the spiritual development of Catholic Youth in the Boy Scouts of America.” She even co-taught a high school class called “Morality According to CBS.”

In the 1970’s Sister Susanne began studies for her Master of Science in Educational Administration at Oklahoma State University. In 1977, when Oklahoma State University – or OSU – publicly filed a petition to patent the OSU initials, Sister Susanne initiated a letter writing campaign to protect the Order of Saint Ursula initials. Her successful campaign yielded personal letters from the president of Oklahoma State University, the Governor of Oklahoma, and the U.S. Department of Commerce Patent and Trademark Office assuring her that all would be well and that we Ursulines could continue to be “OSU.” Sister Susanne was a tireless crusader in so many ways.

As Sister Susanne responded in faith to yet another call to move in a new direction – to leave Oklahoma and return to Kansas – the citizens of Bartlesville and families of Saint John recognized and thanked her with many honors, too numerous to count. Perhaps these two thoughts can reflect their sentiments well:

  • From a newspaper editorial about Sister Susanne’s time at Saint John: “The impact of Catholic school education throughout Oklahoma is summed up in the work of one diminutive, energetic Sister who has served as principal at Saint John’s in Bartlesville.”
  • In a letter from parents at Saint John’s to Ursuline leadership, “Few people in this community have as great an impact [as Sister Susanne] in influencing our children to lead lives dedicated to service, excellence, and living our faith.”

So, Sister Susanne returned to Kansas in 1989 to teach at Holy Angels in Garnett. She taught only one year because she was then elected and accepted the call to serve as Assistant Superior and Treasurer for the Ursuline Sisters of Paola, for two terms from 1990 to 1998. After her time in elected leadership, Sister Susanne was principal for three years at Sacred Heart School, then ministered for eight more years at Holy Rosary-Wea School in Bucyrus, serving in the after-school program and as teacher’s aide for the pre-kindergarten classes.

By 2009, Sister Susanne had experienced some health difficulties and the Paola Ursulines had merged with Mount Saint Joseph. In June 2009, she responded once more to a call to leave the familiar and moved to Kentucky and Mount Saint Joseph. In a way, she returned to her roots, serving for the next nine years as the sacristan at the Mount Saint Joseph Motherhouse chapel.

Sister Susanne prepared her “Annals” – a report each Sister sends to the Archives, reflecting events of the past year that are important to the sister. Her Annals for these years at Mount Saint Joseph mentioned her ministry, of course, but she always added some reference to being in the out-of-doors which she still loved and especially included visiting with family, with nieces and nephews. And to her nieces and nephews gathered here with us, on behalf of the Ursuline Sisters of Mount Saint Joseph, I extend our sympathy and love and also our thanks that you have shared Sister Susanne with us.

After retiring from her sacristan duties, Sister Susanne embraced the Powerhouse of Prayer, including lists of people and countries and needs. She would say, “I don’t pray with a lot of words. I figure the Holy Spirit will take care of it if I remember who to pray for.” As her health declined, she heard yet more clearly one more call from her loving God who had prepared a place for her.

When Sister Susanne left Saint John’s in Bartlesville, she shared a letter with the families and students in response to the question, “What do I want you to remember?” Perhaps what she shared with them can also be what she would say to us:

What do I want you to remember?

  • Put God first in your lives.
  • Do your best in all you do.
  • Love and care for one another.
  • Be positive.

Thank you, Sister Susanne, for sharing your life and love with us.

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